There is an ad war going on. Not a multi-million dollar game of one-upmanship between two brands. Something more troubling. This war is being waged between advertisers and consumers. And it’s been going on for a long, long time.
Everyone Hates Ads
People hate ads. People have always hated ads.
That’s because in order to get our attention, ads interrupt whatever we’re doing. And that is pretty much the definition of annoying.
So, people take evasive action. They channel surf. They DVR programs and fast forward commercials. They stream music rather than listen to the radio. And they use ad-blocking technology.
But advertisers are in hot pursuit. Shorter commercials. More commercials. Pop-up ads. YouTube ads with no “skip” button. And ad-blocker whitelists.
Strike, counterstrike. Over and over.
Ads aren’t all bad
Truth is, ads serve a real purpose. They introduce us to new products. They drive sales which is good for the economy. And they support the free content we all love so much. In fact, this author’s snarky reply to someone who complained about his ads is pure gold:
“If you don’t want to hear ads, please feel free to actually pay for the free book you are complaining about.” - Scott Sigler, FDØ
Most people understand this relationship between advertising and free content and are willing to abide some commercials. But, as soon as we get used to ads, we start ignoring them. So advertisers get more aggressive.
And the war rages on.
What people really want
Just because people hate ads doesn’t mean they hate buying things. Commerce happens 24/7/365. What people want is value for their money.
Another reason people hate ads is because they rarely help you compare products or services. For example, if I’m looking to buy a laptop every Apple ad I see tells me how sleek and cool MacBooks are. Every PC ad claims Windows is just as sleek and cool as Mac. And every Chromebook ad reassures me that these laptops are no different from any other. None explain why one costs $1500 and another $150. What’s the difference?
As a consumer, I want information. Marketers, unfortunately, have a bad reputation for obscuring information. Especially information that may lead me to a competitor. This game of hide-and-seek tends to piss people off and destroys trust.
How smart brands are using content marketing
Thanks to the Internet, consumers have access to more information about products and services than ever. Fully 81% of consumers conduct research online before making a major purchase. A large percentage of this information comes from third parties.
Smart brands are capitalizing on the thirst for knowledge with content marketing. By providing genuine, honest information - information that helps us make smart purchasing decisions - brands can change their relationship status with consumers from annoying adversary to friendly advisor.
The difference between content marketing and advertising
What sets content marketing apart from traditional advertising is the way it benefits the customer. The “content” in content marketing is supposed to to give people something they want - something they value.
Brands who screw up content marketing tend do so by treating it like another form of advertising.
To succeed at content marketing you need to (a) be honest and (b) deliver quality. It helps to first conduct market research to learn what your customers care about. Then, create content that addresses real questions, interests, and concerns - not promotional hype or inane fluff.
You’ll know you’re doing content marketing right when instead of ducking you like a creepy stalker, your customers start seeking you out and listening to what you have to say.